KTEP - El Paso, Texas

Outcry After Louisiana Teacher Arrested During School Board Meeting

Jan 10, 2018
Originally published on January 10, 2018 1:57 pm

A Louisiana teacher questioned whether the superintendent should receive a raise. Then, she was ushered out of a school board meeting and handcuffed.

The dramatic arrest on Monday — which was caught on video — has drawn outrage in the U.S. and beyond. The Vermilion Parish School Board offices were locked down on Tuesday after receiving threats, board president Anthony Fontana told The Daily Advertiser in Lafayette, La.

The Vermilion Parish teacher, Deyshia Hargrave, will not face charges.

"I have reviewed the video, and I am not going to approve any charges against the teacher," Ike Funderburk, the city attorney in Abbeville, the parish seat, told KATC. "I have talked with the attorney for the school board. They do not wish to pursue any charges against the teacher."

Since it was posted to YouTube on Monday, the video has been viewed more than 1.7 million times.

During a public comment period at the board meeting, Hargrave stood up and voiced opposition to superintendent Jerome Puyau receiving a raise.

"I have a serious issue with a superintendent or any person in a position of leadership getting any type of raise," she said calmly. "It's absurd that we're even considering giving someone a raise when these teachers are working this hard and not getting a dime."

The board then voted to approve the raise for Puyau, reportedly moving his salary from around $110,000 to more than $140,000.

At that point, Hargrave addressed the room again. "How are you even going to take a raise?" she asked. "It's basically taking our money."

At that point, a security officer, later identified as a deputy city marshal paid by the school board, approached Hargrave and asked her to leave the meeting. "You're going to leave or I'm going to remove you. Take your things and go," he said.

She asked whether it was against policy to stand as she spoke and pointed out that the board was directly addressing her. She then complied with the officer's request and walked out of the room.

Seconds later, the video shows the security officer forcibly putting Hargrave in handcuffs as other teachers voice outrage.

"What are you doing, can you explain?" Hargrave asks.

"Stop resisting," the officer replies.

"I am not, you just pushed me to the floor," the teacher says.

Outside, the officer says he gave her "many directives to leave" and ushers her into the back of a police vehicle.

Hargrave was booked into jail overnight, according to KATC, even though the superintendent said that "shortly after the meeting that he had called to inform police that the system didn't want any charges pressed."

The city appears to be distancing itself from the officer. Funderburk, the city's attorney, emphasized in his statement that the officer "is not acting in any official capacity on behalf of the city of Abbeville." He also stressed that "the city of Abbeville has absolutely nothing to do with the events of the other night."

The ACLU of Louisiana said Hargrave's expulsion from the meeting and arrest "are unacceptable and raise serious constitutional concerns." It adds: "The Constitution prohibits the government from punishing or retaliating against people for expressing their views, and the fact that a schoolteacher was arrested at a public meeting of the school board is especially troubling."

Fontana defended the officer's behavior in a statement to KATC.

"If a teacher has the authority to send a student, who is acting up and she can't control, out of the classroom to the principal's office, under our policy we have the same rules," Fontana said. He added that the officer "did exactly what he was hired to do. He followed the procedures completely. She's the one who made the choices that got her arrested."

Two board members have complained that the board does not treat women fairly, according to The Associated Press.

"No reason for anyone to be treated this way. So far in three years, only women have been removed from board room meetings," board member Sara Duplechain told the wire service.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.